Environmental Law Program

A Hawaiʻi Environmental Court Workshop with Judge Larry Potter

On Tuesday, April 25, the William S. Richardson School of Law Environmental Law Program, in cooperation with Keep the Hawaiian Islands Beautiful, conducted a workshop on the Hawai’i Environmental Court, with a special focus on O’ahu Litter, Illegal Dumping, and Community Environmental Enforcement.  Our special guest speaker was Judge Larry Potter of the Shelby County Tennessee Environmental Court, who continues to be the longest serving Environmental Jurist in the country.

The workshop was free and open to the public.  In attendance were local community and business leaders, law and code enforcement officials, and law students and legal professionals, among others.  Before the workshop, Judge Potter was gracious enough to partake in an informal lunch with ELP law students, sharing his inspiring story growing up in poverty next to a big river that eventually became polluted by a chemical plant upstream.  His grandfather, a prominent local in the area, fought for a long time to stop the pollution – igniting Judge Potter’s passion for environmental protection.

After lunch, Denise Antolini, Associate Dean for Academic Affairs, began with a brief history of the environmental court here in Hawaiʻi.  Judge Potter spoke first, focusing on building community collaboration within the environmental court system.  Cecile Carson, Senior Vice President of Litter and Affiliate Relations for Keep America Beautiful, introduced the workshop with a presentation about “Why does litter (e.g. marine debris), illegal dumping, and community appearance matter?  Talking points on the importance of enforcement, behavior change, and litter’s environmental, economic, and social impacts.”  Next, Pablo Biemler, Community Outreach Coordinator of the Hawaiʻi Wildfire Management Organization, spoke about “Impacts on Hawaiʻi Wildfire Management.” 

A brief break later, Michael O’Keefe, Assistant Chief of the Refuse Division for the City and County of Honolulu, presented on the county’s “Enforcement of Illegal Dumping & Refuse Ordinances.”  Next, Judge Potter spoke again, this time about “Building the Case:  Investigation Tips and Ideas.”  Following, Commander John T. Dewey, Staff Judge Advocate for the Fourteenth Coast Guard District, expounded on “How to Catch a Polluter – Illegal Dumping in the Marine Environment.”  Opening with a refreshing oli or Native Hawaiian chant, Kevin Chang, Executive Director for Kuaʻāina Ulu ʻAuamo (KUA) next discussed “Building Community Capacity to Collaborate in Hawaiʻi.”  Rounding out the workshop, Cecile Carson presented again, this time about “Review Tools and Resources,” for future community and professional engagement.

Overall, the workshop was extremely successful, featuring inspiring presenters with excellent community attendance.  Mahalo nui to all participants! We hope to conduct another environmental court workshop again soon!